Former Lake County cops sentenced to prison for gun scheme
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org June 27, 2013 11:02AM
Updated: July 30, 2013 8:22AM
Calling two former Lake County cops “greedy” for their scheme to betray the public’s trust to illegally buy and sell weapon parts, U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced on Thursday morning both men to prison time.
Ronald Slusser, 49, a former member of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department’s SWAT team and a former firearms instructor, will serve 70 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count each of conspiracy to lie to a federal firearms licensee, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, lying on a federal tax return and money laundering.
Joseph Kumstar, 42, a former deputy chief for the department, will serve 51 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to lie to a federal firearms licensee, conspiracy to defraud the DEA and lying on a tax return.
The two played a large role in the conspiracy, which used their position with the police department to buy fully-automatic machine guns and laser sights that only law enforcement agencies and the military are allowed to use.
According to court filings, the men met Pennsylvania resident Vahan Kelerchian, owner of Armaments International Services, at a gun show in Kentucky. Kelerchian, who has since been charged in connection to the conspiracy in a separate case, told the men that he had figured out how he could obtain these guns and sites by having police departments send him a letter saying they wanted to see a demonstration of the weapon. If they didn’t buy the gun, he could then keep it for himself.
Kelerchian told the men the officer he had worked with retired, and Kumstar said they would take part. Kelerchian has pleaded not guilty in the case.
The men all paid for the guns, although Slusser did the work of taking the guns apart so they could sell the upper barrel, which is highly desirable but cannot be bought separately legally, online.
Some of the weapons were found during a police raid of a gang in Montreal, and more were found on a man in Alabama who got into a shoot-out with police.
Kumstar and Slusser are said to have made $200,000 in profit from the scheme.
“There’s almost nothing as bad as breaking the public’s trust by a police officer,” Judge Moody said during the hearing.
Slusser’s attorney, Visvaldis Kupsis, said his client had acted from greed and had gotten himself into this situation. However, he added, his client has also helped many people and has since found work after he resigned from the department.
“I think it’s fair to say that Ron Slusser is the kind of person you want to have as a friend,” Kupsis said.
Slusser said during a short statement that he apologized for his actions.
Along with the 70 months in prison, Slusser will also eventually have to pay $198,000 to the IRS.
Kumstar also apologized to the court for his part in the crime, saying he now experiences “disappointment and embarrassment.”
“I can’t change what happened in the past,” he said, but added that he wants to do better in the future.
Matthew Fech, Kumstar’s attorney, stressed that Kumstar started cooperating with federal officials as soon as they served a search warrant on him.
“He made a conscience decision ... to try to make it right,” Fech said.
Although Moody expressed wonder at both men for taking part in their crimes, noting that they had “sacrificed” their jobs for money, he did agree to accept Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson’s recommendation for a sentences below the recommended federal guideline ranges.
Both men must report to prison by Sept. 27.
Another co-defendant in the case, Edward Kabella, who also was an officer for the sheriff’s department, is serving a two-year sentence for his role in the conspiracy.